Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Dr. Evan Harris: Of foreign nationals.

Mr. Carmichael: Of foreign nationals, as my hon. Friend reminds me from a sedentary position.

In our view, that test is far too low for such a serious step. It is a quantum leap to deprive someone of their citizenship or right of abode when that person, although they have a second nationality, might never have had recourse to using it, might have no links to the country concerned and might never have lived in it. To put someone in a position of relying on a citizenship other than their British citizenship on such a low test is unacceptable. The effect of our amendment No. 37 is to retain as the test for depriving an individual of citizenship that they should be shown to have done something seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory.

The Conservative amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are interesting, particularly No. 2, which seeks to delete the provision relating to Ministers' thinking. I venture to say that if the Government are going to be required to satisfy courts that Ministers had thought about something before they did it, they might be in for a lean time as far as successful cases in court are concerned. I can think of no other instance in which "thinks" is used in such a situation. I would be interested if the Minister could point me towards a precedent. In the event of his failure to do so, it would be sensible for the Government to accept amendment No. 2.

Mr. Gerrard : I will be brief, given the time that is left. It is a pity that we have such a short time to debate what, I think, is one of the most important sections of the Bill, including a group of clauses that were added in Committee, have never been debated on the Floor of the House and are some of the most important changes that have been made. It is probably true that clauses 51 to 53 will affect relatively small numbers of people. For those small numbers of people, however, they will be extremely important.

I have two or three points. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) asked whether clause 51 is necessary, in that the existing law provides for the exclusion of someone who is a violent terrorist from claiming asylum. I will not repeat what he said about the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In the years in which I have been in the House, however, the UNHCR has commented on a number of provisions in asylum and immigration Bills, and the comments about clause 51 are probably the strongest that I have seen from it about any such clause and its incompatibility with the 1951 convention. It made it very clear that interpretation of the convention is not what we should be doing. The provisions in the
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1054
convention cannot be unilaterally modified by a state that is a contracting party to the convention. It wants states that have not already done so to incorporate not just article 1(F)(c) of the convention but (a) and (b).

Last week we debated the Terrorism Bill, which has not yet completed its passage. The definitions in clause 51 are relevant to that Bill. The definition of "encouraging terrorism" is an example. It is quite possible that before we finish considering the Terrorism Act, there will be changes. I am also not sure how Government amendments relating to extra-territorial acts of terrorism that were agreed last week should be read in the context of this Bill, or how any changes will be dealt with. One of the commitments made by the Government during last week's debate was that the Home Secretary would ask Lord Carlile to review the definition of terrorism, not just in the Terrorism Bill but in the Terrorism Act 2000. The definition in the 2000 Act is mentioned in clause 51 of this Bill. I want to be certain that the outcome of any review, including Lord Carlile's review, will be translated into this Bill, because it strikes me as inconsistent to include a definition of terrorism in one Bill that does not relate clearly to the definition in another.

I wish we had had more time to debate such a critical part of the Bill, but I shall end my speech now, because the Minister will want to speak during the few minutes that are left.

Mr. Malins: I shall be brief, because I know that the Minister wants to speak.

Let me repeat what I said in Committee. When the Minister introduced the new clause relating to deprivation of citizenship, he spoke with great courtesy and authority. I repeat that my party stands united behind the Government's attempts to combat the surge of terrorism. Indeed, the whole House is united on that. I should have like to question the Minister on a number of matters, but time is against us and I believe that they will be raised in another place. Deprivation of citizenship will, I think, be used rarely—it has been used rarely so far—and I know that the Government will retain a right of appeal. I also know that the Government will do their best to strike a balance between civil liberties and the defence of the realm. We are with them 100 per cent. on that, and I believe that any further matters that I might raise with the Minister will be raised in another place.

Mr. McNulty: I am glad that we have at least some time left.

Let me rebut the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard). He knows the context in which these clauses were introduced as well as I do. Although not all Members, including members of the Committee, were not party to the gestation period when the clauses were discussed, they were discussed on an all-party basis throughout and beyond the summer. The other place will be aware of that. I do not accept the terms in which my hon. Friend described the genesis of the clauses or, indeed, the final discussions.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I dwell on amendment No. 34, for reasons of time rather than for any other reason. The UNHCR considerations are serious, although in part they challenge and condemn many past UN discussions and resolutions.
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1055

I received a very nice letter from Bemma Donkoh, the UNHCR's representative in London, which laid all these things out and said, "Best wishes, see you again soon, lots of love Bemma". We have a strong and not always unduly non-critical relationship. It is a good one.

It is right and proper that, with all the cross-party deliberations about terrorism, these clauses sit in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, rather than in some omnibus terrorism Bill. I thank everyone on the Committee for setting a full day aside to deliberate these clauses and for the discussion that was held, which was interesting, informed and moved things on in some regard. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), as he has reminded me twice now, made a very good speech, although he seemed surprised that he had done so—there was shock in his voice when he said "I made a very good speech that day".

The UNHCR points are serious and need to be considered with the seriousness that they deserve. The charge is that clause 51 is not compatible with the refugee convention, but part of the justification for clause 51 in all its glory is that it reflects the relevant Security Council resolutions that refer to the guiding principles of the UN. UN Security Council resolution 1373 states that

as well as the commission of such acts constitute acts

UN Security Council resolution 1377 is broadly in the same terms. I said in Committee that, as and when—fortunately, the progress of Bills through Parliament favours this—there needs to be read-across between the Terrorism Bill and any changes made to the constituent parts of that, and this Bill, we will seek to reflect those changes in this Bill. That makes perfect sense. I cannot pre-empt what the other place will do with the Terrorism Bill, but we stand ready to cross-reference the two Bills in the appropriate place.

I think that, given the state of this Bill and the state of the Terrorism Bill, little needs to happen, not least because Lord Carlile will conduct a substantive review of the definition of terrorism over the year. Much of the debate about read-across refers to the definitions that are included in the Terrorism Bill.

We believe that the UNHCR's points about the definition of terrorism in the 2000 Act are unfair. The definition is compatible with article 1(F)(c) of the refugee convention, as is the 2005 Terrorism Bill. We do not consider it to be at odds with UN Security Council resolutions that were drawn up reflecting the principles of the UN.

We are exhorted by UNHCR to take a holistic approach to exclusion clauses. We argue that we have done so, and they are reflected in this Bill. Clause 51 is not piecemeal. Our approach to the application of article 1(F) is holistic and we contest the points made by UNHCR in that regard.

We take the same attitude to the points made about positions of power. The UNHCR London paper suggests that in principle only persons who have been in power or a state-like entity would be capable of committing such acts, given that articles 1 and 2 of the UN charter set out the fundamental principles that states must uphold in mutual relations. A slew of
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1056
Asylum and Immigration Tribunal case law and Security Council resolutions themselves contend that very position. Although I take UNHCR's points very seriously and take into account the points made by my hon. Friends and other colleagues that these are serious clauses in the Bill, I do not accept UNHCR's point that, of themselves and in their own terms, they are incompatible with the overall thrust of what is in the UN charter. They are very serious clauses that are a consequence of what we are trying to achieve in the broader sense in counter-terrorism and I—

It being Six o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [5 July].

The House divided: Ayes 64, Noes 275.

Next Section IndexHome Page